Yes, this is the history of the world, told with the help of sixty-one 1980s pop songs.
13.8 billion years ago:
Danger Danger – Bang Bang (1989)
Just another 100 million years later:
Church: Under the Milky Way (1988)
65 million years ago:
Was (Not Was) – Walk the dinosaur (1988)
Exciting things started to happen. Back then, there were no humans, but our evolution was well under way.
George Michael – Monkey (1988)
And then, about two million years ago, homo habilis took the stage and we were on the board.
The Human League – Human (1986)
Humans still stayed mostly in Africa.
Toto – Africa (1982)
Which to them was…
Mike Reno and Ann Wilson – Almost Paradise (1984)
Homo sapiens also had to deal with the ice age about 11,000 years ago
Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby (1989)
The cradle of modern civilization was in Greece. The Greeks, for example, developed the first true alphabet from which the Latin alphabet derives.
Prince – Alphabet St (1988)
Of course, the Egyptians had already documented their history in hieroglyphs.
The Bangles – Walk Like An Egyptian (1986)
Rome became the world’s first superpower, a true empire.
Vangelis – Chariots Of Fire (1981)
As you can see, a lot had happened before our Year Zero.
Band Aid – Do they know it’s Christmas? (1984)
In Europe, the first millennium was an era of völkerwanderung.
Huey Lewis and the News – Finally Found a Home (1983)
(Yeah, it’s a fancy German word. It means “people wandering”, or migrating.)
The Proclaimers – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)
And just as things got a little bit settled in the continental Europe, the Vikings took to the sea. And nothing was the same.
Duran Duran – The Wild Boys (1984)
According to Wikipedia, “the Hundred Years’ War was a series of conflicts waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Plantagenet, rulers of the Kingdom of England, against the House of Valois, rulers of the Kingdom of France, over the succession to the French throne.” What was that about, you ask?
Tears For Fears – Everybody Wants To Rule The World (1985)
Founded in 1602, the Dutch East India Company became the first company to issue shares to the general public, and then, the largest corporation in history.
Pet Shop Boys – Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money) (1985)
In 1632, Galileo Galilei published “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems” advocating the theory that the Earth revolves around Sun.
The Way It Is – Bruce Hornsby (1986)
And believe it or not, this was also the time of the Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason. The Enlightenment brought about numerous books, essays, inventions, scientific discoveries, laws, wars – and revolutions.
Thomas Dolby – She Blinded Me With Science (1982)
Louis XIV, the king of France, a k a the Sun King, made France the leader of Europe. He also holds the record for longest reign for European monarchs, between 4 May 1643 – 1 September 1715. That’s 72 years and 110 days.
Katrina and the Waves – Walking On Sunshine (1985)
And in 1683, Isaac Newton published his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, in which he lists laws of motion, and the law of gravitation.
Olivia Newton John – Physical (1981)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the prodigy that became a star. The overture from his opera, “The Marriage of Figaro” is used in the opening credits of “Trading Places”. Mozart died in 1791, at 35.
Rock Me Amadeus – Falco (1986)
Meanwhile, something big was happening on the other side of the Atlantic. The United States of America declared their independence. On the fourth of July, 1776.
Kim Wilde – Kids in America (1981)
In 1778, Ludvig van Beethoven held hist first public performance. He was seven years old. Five years later, he was touted as “the next Mozart.” His ninth symphony premiered in 1824.
Eurythmics – Beethoven (1987)
The Enlightenment and the American revolution gave the French some ideas, such as, “How about we don’t have a king anymore?” In 1789, the people stormed the Bastille.
Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now – Starship (1987)
… and in January 1793, they executed the king, Louis XVI, and nine months later, his wife Marie Antoinette who is said to have answered, “let them eat cake” when told that the peasants didn’t have bread.
Shakin’ Stevens – Marie, Marie (1981)
Life was tough everywhere. But the American frontier life was probably among the toughest. And the most romanticised one, too.
The Escape Club – Wild, Wild West (1988)
Machines! They can do our work instead. And we’ll call it … the Industrial revolution!
Working for a livin’ – Huey Lewis (1982)
One of the great machines was the steam locomotive. The first one was built in Wales in 1804, but it was George Stephenson who really developed the locomotives in the early 19th century.
Kylie Minogue – The locomotion (1988)
In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell’s “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you” was the first successful telephone transmission of clear speech. What Watson heard was:
Stevie Wonder – I Just Called To Say I Love you
In the 1880s, human progress really took off as we got management consultants, and quality programs, thanks to the scientific management, or Taylorism.
Dolly Parton – 9 To 5 (1981)
… And the next logical step was the conveyor belt (1892) and then, automation.
Pointer Sisters – Automatic (1983)
In 1885, Karl Benz built the first petrol powered automobile. (And in 1913, Henry Ford combined assembly line and car manufacturing).
The Cars – Drive (1984)
Now, more traditional ways of getting rich were still available. For example, striking gold. About 100,000 prospectors flooded to Klondike between 1896 and 1899.
Spandau Ballet – Gold (1983)
One of Europe’s intellectual hotbeds at the turn of the century was Vienna with all the philosophers in coffee shops. The city was also the centre of jugendstil, or Art Noveau (not the band that changed its name to Kajagoogoo).
Ultravox – Vienna (1980)
One of the biggest names to come out of Vienna was Sigmund Freud who came to Vienna in 1873 with the intention to study law. He graduated with an MD in 1881 but became the founder of psychoanalysis.
George Michael – Father Figure (1987)
In 1903, the Wright brothers invented, built, and flew the first successful airplane.
Cheap Trick – Mighty wings (1986)
“The war to end all wars” began with “the shot heard around the world”. Also, in 1915, the French created the world’s first camouflage unit, and being French, named it using the French word camoufler (“to veil, disguise”).
Stan Ridgway – Camouflage (1986)
In 1939, World War II. There was that guy.
Mel Brooks – To Be or Not to Be (The Hitler Rap) (1983)
… And there were Little Boy and Fat Man.
Gap Band – You Dropped a Bomb on Me (1982)
What was the first rock’n’roll song? Who knows. But we do know that in the Fifties, the kids really wanted to rock and, well, they’re still rocking.
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – I Love Rock’n’roll (1982)
The Cold War began almost immediately after WW2. There was the arms race…
Pointer Sisters – Neutron Dance (1983)
… Berlin was divided into two…
Pink Floyd – Another Brick In The Wall (1979)
So maybe it’s no wonder that the Summer of 1967 turned into the Summer of Love. Peace, love, and understanding.
Bryan Adams – Summer of ’69 (1984)
In the Eastern Bloc, the secret police kept tabs on the citizens. The Big Brother wasn’t idle in the West, either.
Rockwell – Somebody’s Watching Me (1984)
Besides the arms race, there was also the race to the moon.
The Police – Walking On The Moon (1979)
And when we came to the 1980s. Oh, the Eighties. We got video games…
Buckner and Garcia – Pac-Man Fever (1981)
… and music videos…
The Buggles – Video Killed The Radio Star (1980)
… and some money…
Dire Straits – Money For Nothing (1985)
… and life was good…
Madonna – Material Girl (1984)
… although, we didn’t need much, really …
Cyndi Lauper – Girls just want to have fun (1983)
Eddie Murphy – Party all the time (1985)
Then the dominoes started to fall, and just as suddenly as the Berlin wall had gone up, it came down.
Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer (1986)
On the other side of the world, another wall between people, the South African apartheid system, came down.
Artists United Against Apartheid – Sun City (1985)
By the late 1990s, the computers had become really good chess players. One of them even beat Garry Kasparov, the human world champion.
Prince – Computer Blue (1984)
Y2K! Y2K! Y2K!
Prince – 1999 (1982)
The new millennium got off to a horrible start on September 11, 2001.
A-ha – Manhattan Skyline (1986)
Oh, fashion? Yeah.
Madness – Baggy Trousers (1980)
“An Inconvenient Truth”, a documentary about Al Gore’s efforts to raise awareness of climate change, came out in 2006. And things haven’t got better
Kool and the Gang – Too Hot (1979)
Also, the sea levels are rising.
Blondie – The Tide Is High (1981)
And here we are today.
Heaven 17 – (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang